I recently ran across this article that ranks the ten most influential people in family life today. I skimmed the list despondently: where were all of the people who have been most influential in my family’s life? My despondence shifted to criticism. “Moms” as #1 perpetuates bias about traditional family structure, discredits non-typical family organizations, and ignores the contribution from other spouses and extended family. Harvey Karp as #2? If you have ever read (or ever even heard of) The Happiest Baby on the Block, this article by Lisa Sunbury is worth reading. Steve Jobs as #3? Don’t get me wrong – my technology testifies to my personal indebtedness to Jobs (typing on a mac, checked my email on an iPad, and looking forward to getting a new iPhone 5 in September). But an icon of screen time ranked as the third most influential voice in family life today? I recognize that this list is an aggregation of popular opinions, and I don’t want to discredit the significant contributions from many on the list, but reading over Scholastic’s list moved me.
To the millions of parents whose habits formed the basis for this list, have you heard of my influential people?
My circle of influences is a little off-the-radar. Popular conversations don’t typically include needs-based guidance or respect for children, but instead, promises quick guarantees of obedience and “good” behavior. Many of the most popular parenting “gurus” focus on immediate outcomes: right eating, acceptable dress, appropriate value systems, pain-free-potty-training, and sleep-filled nights – often resorting to practices that belie the essential trusting relationship between parents and children.
And I get it – parenting is overwhelming, stressful, and discouraging, and any tips or tricks we find to make our day-to-day life easier come like water to a thirsty soul. But there is another way! And this is why I wish my most influential voices would sound more loudly against the backdrop of all this pop-parenting nonsense that claims that the ends justify the means.
So have you heard of these people? I didn’t number them, because they are in no particular order. (And I suppose I did include more than ten, because I clustered some of my greatest influences under a single heading. Bonus!) If you haven’t met, I want to introduce these marvelous advocates for early childhood. Readers? Meet my list. List? Meet these readers.
(My) 10 Most Influential People
Alfie Kohn. Kohn writes some of the most accessible and practical books for parents seeking to abandon coercion in the parent/child relationship. Kohn also has several video clips floating around the internet if you are interested in hearing him speak.
“Some who support [more] coercive strategies assume that children will run wild if they are not controlled. However, the children for whom this is true typically turn out to be those accustomed to being controlled – those who are not trusted, given explanations, encouraged to think for themselves, helped to develop and internalize good values, and so on. Control breeds the need for more control, which s used to justify the control.” – From Punished by Rewards
Dan Gartrell. I consider The Power of Guidance my go-to book for social-emotional development in young children. Transforming the language of “mistaken behavior” rather than “misbehavior” was critical in my understanding of how to support children’s growth in the social and emotional realm. Never read his work? Consider it added to your “to-do” list.
Bloggers. Lose yourself for a while in the wisdom, thoughtfulness, relevance, and regular writing from this group of amazing writers. I love to read articles about whole child development, and these are (hands-down) some of the best:
- Janet Lansbury – Elevating Childcare & Lisa Sunbury – Regarding Baby: Specifically geared for parents and care providers of infants and toddlers, but applicable to all early years care. These two women also offer advice, so if you are stuck with a problem, they might have an answer for you!
- Gina Osher – The Twin Coach, Core Parenting, Parenting from Scratch, Aha! Parenting, “Good Job” and Other Things You Shouldn’t Say or Do: These writers all offer compassionate, thoughtful parenting advice that challenges common strategies.
- Teacher Tom: One of the best preschool blogs I’ve read with ideas for explorations as well as thoughtful reflections on ways to interact with young children.
I’m consistently surprised to find new bloggers that I have never heard of. If you know someone that I should know about, share it in the comments below.
Magda Gerber. Infant expert and RIE co-founder, Magda Gerber validates that infants have strategies to communicate, that their needs matter, and that by respecting them from day one, we nurture their lifelong respect for themselves. This book is one of the gifts I love to give to the new parents in my life. As Gerber says, “Be careful what you teach. It might interfere with what they are learning.”
Haim Ginott. Between Parent and Child is the second of my new parent gifts. I feel about Ginott like I feel about Magda Gerber: what he says makes sense at a soul-level. “Misbehavior and punishment are not opposites that cancel each other – on the contrary they breed and reinforce each other.” If you are on the quest to transform your parenting or teaching into something completely different than a punishment system, Ginott’s book should be on your “must read” list.
Kelly Matthews, A Place for You Early Childhood Consulting. Kelly is my mentor in all things early childhood. Whenever I run into a snag, she is my go-to listening ear and shoulder to cry on. A gifted listener, she always draws me to the perspective of the child with a thoughtful, I wonder why? She has been known to show up at my door with a hot chai latte or a bouquet of flowers – does it get better than this? My life is richer, as are the lives of the Abundant Life crew, because of my friendship with Kelly. If you ever have the honor to sit in one of her workshops, your life and practice will be changed for the better.
Anti-Bias Advocates. In August 2009, I was privileged to attend a full day conference led by Louise Derman-Sparks whose books, Anti-Bias Education For Young Children and Ourselves (co-authored with Julie Olsen Edwards) and What if All the Kids are White (authored with Patricia Ramsey and Julie Olsen Edwards) revolutionized my practice. Anti-bias education forces practitioners to think critically about what biases we unknowingly communicate through our toys, materials, children’s books, and any media used with young children. Ann Pelo & Fran Davidson grew my vocabulary and purpose behind empowering young children to recognize and work to end injustice. Beverly Tatum’s book gave me a glimpse into the way biases are perpetuated and the disastrous effects of doing nothing.
Professional Organizations. Membership in a few key professional organizations helps me find the gold among the pyrite (inner science nerd alert!) of resources for parenting and educating young children. The National Association for the Education of Young Children, the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children, and the National Family Child Care Association showcase sound research-based resources as well as provide national, state and local opportunities for quality professional development. Community Coordinated Child Care and regional Child Care Resource and Referral have staff to visit on site to assist with challenges as well as materials and trainings to support the work of practitioners. Even though I have linked to my local agencies, all states and cities should have agencies in place to support child care.
Marshall Rosenberg & Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC). Raising Children Compassionately (a small little booklet), Nonviolent Communication, and Respectful Parents, Respectful Kidsare among the more heavily underlined, more frequently loaned-out books in my professional library. The CNVC offers wonderful online resources, and it was through this organization and Marshall Rosenberg (the founder) that I first ran across the idea that behavior is an indication of a need either being met or not being met. Sounds basic, right? Consider the difference that makes in parenting. A child who hits is not hitting for the joy of hitting – a child who hits is hitting because she has a need and doesn’t have another way to get that need met. I have dreamed about the extent to which this needs-based parenting would transform the world. As Rosenberg says, “You can’t make your kids do anything. All you can do it make them wish they had. And then, they will make you wish you hadn’t made them wish they had.”
My crew. Of course, my greatest influences are the children that I work with, and the families that offer me their support. I am the educator and parent that I am because of the unique combination of personalities and temperaments that I greet at my door everyday.
I should mention – I don’t receive anything from any of the individuals on this list, so I’m as impartial as they come! Happy reading!
What about you? Do you have great blogs to share? Fabulous authors I should know about? Leave me some ideas in the comments!! And just so you know, if you include a link, write something else as well…comments with lots of links tend to end up as spam!